Finding Faith in McLeansboro

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I hope you don’t mind if I keep talking about Christmas. I grew up in a family that made sure our Christmas tree was down before New Year’s Day, but Ray and I never quit celebrating until at least the twelfth day of Christmas.

As Ray and I traveled east on New Year’s Eve between the St. Louis area and New Harmony, Indiana, we decided to begin our journey into a tranquil place by traveling the byways instead of the Interstate. We love the beauty of the wide open prairies of Illinois and Indiana. One of the little towns we got to see for the first time was McLeansboro, Illinois, county seat of Hamilton County, which was named for Founding Father and first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

McLeansboro Sign

As we came to the town square, I noticed this nativity scene on a corner.

Nativity in McLeansboro

Then I noticed that it was on the grounds of the county courthouse.

McClensboro, Illinois, County  Courthouse
Hamilton County Courthouse, McCleansboro, Illinois

The tradition of setting up displays to portray the birth of Jesus began in 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi arranged to have a manger, an ox, and a donkey placed in a cave in Grecio, Italy. As people looked at the scene, Assisi taught them about the baby born in Bethlehem. I am thankful that someone in McLeansboro, Illinois, continued the tradition almost 800 years later and that no county official let fear of people who wouldn’t like it keep them from letting it happen.

One thing I noticed during our two days on either side of the Wabash River in Illinois and Indiana was that I saw more outdoor nativity scenes than I am used to seeing around home. Here is one at the Christian Church in New Harmony.

New Harmony Christian Church
New Harmony Christian Church

Opinions about how to celebrate Christmas and whether to celebrate it at all vary widely among believers in Jesus Christ. Opinions about that became a challenge to me personally while we lived in Urbana, Illinois. It was there that it became important to me to put up Christmas decorations outside of our home so that others would know that we believed in Jesus.

One family near our home was from Africa. An Orthodox Jewish family lived close by, too. Urbana was so multi-cultural that when I saw a house that wasn’t decorated for Christmas, I assumed they might be Buddhist or something. I didn’t want people to think that about us.

One thing that Dr. Ben Carson told homeschooling families at the homeschool convention in Cincinnati last spring was that Americans should not fear people who believe differently from the way we do and let them intimidate us into “political correctness.” We certainly don’t have to place nativity scenes in public places or decorate the outsides of our homes to be faithful to God. However, we shouldn’t hide our faith to be politically correct either.

One way or another we must teach our children to stand strong in their faith and to be willing to confess that faith openly, no matter the cost.

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men,
I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
But whoever denies Me before men,
I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 10:32-33


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